A few weeks ago we looked at Mark 1:29-35 at church. Our minister pointed out that Jesus, after a long day of teaching and healing, could have reasonably turned away “the whole town” who gathered at his door - “You’ll still be sick tomorrow! Let me have my dinner and a sleep!” He didn’t, of course. He gives up his time to heal them and cast out demons. It struck me during that sermon how ridiculous it is to think of Jesus crying out, “But what about me? When do I get some me time?!” Instead, the Gospels reveal a man who seems to have endless pools of love and patience and energy and TIME from which to give and to give and to give. The following verse (35) probably has something to do with the source of this never-ending selflessness:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Lately I’ve felt as if time’s moving faster than I am and that it’s a constant struggle to keep up, or at least to not fall further behind. The days, weeks, months fly by in a relentless onslaught of active verbs: go, work, do, make, choose, come, provide, cook, help. I've been craving slowness, quiet, TIME. My breaks, whenever they arrive, feel deserved; they belong to me, earned by the hard work I’ve done. I want to read a book, watch a movie, check my emails, Get Things Done, and to be alone. I don’t want to have to share my free moments with anyone, including God. Praying and reading the Bible are just two more things on my to-do list that feel like effort. Too many days, when I get to them, I rush through just to tick them off.
That sermon a few Sundays ago was what initially sparked my realisation that neglecting God-time was one of the main reasons I’m feeling more and more out of my depth as time rushes by. Not too long after that spark, we read the story of Mary and Martha to our son from The Beginner’s Bible:
Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends with Jesus. One day Jesus came over to visit. Mary sat at his feet and listened to him for a long time. Meanwhile, Martha was busy cooking and cleaning. There was so much to do! The longer Mary listened to Jesus, the angrier Martha became. She said, “I am busy in the kitchen while Mary is doing nothing!”“Jesus, please tell my sister to help me,” Martha complained.“Martha, Martha,” said Jesus. “You should not be upset. Mary has chosen what is better. She is listening to me.”
Our pre-bed Bible time slots into our son’s routine right after his bath and just before we sing and pray, not very long before he falls asleep and we slow down and enjoy some time to ourselves. It’s a time when my mind is wondering what I’ll do with my evening while my arms keep our sleepy-though-surprisingly-energetic son from diving off the couch or opening the curtains and discovering how light it actually is outside. I’m usually too distracted to think through the fact that the words we read are for me, too. On ‘Mary and Martha’ night I was unexpectedly rebuked by Jesus’ teaching.
For far too long now I've justified the time I waste, the bazillion distractions from God, the hurried moments I've spent with Him, the way I've prioritised being entertained over nurturing my relationship with Him, the increasing shallowness of my Christian life. I don’t want to become a microwave Christian: throw together some Bible and a pinch of prayer, chuck it in, then PING! Done. And it only took 7 minutes - such a time-saver! I saw a microwave dinner the other night. It wasn’t pretty. It looked small and grey and dull; completely unappealing. I don’t want my Christian life to be like a microwave dinner. I want my Christian life to look and to smell like a hearty, slow-cooked meal: Meaty, rich, tender, flavoursome. I want the aromas to draw people in and make them beg me for the recipe. I want them to crave that same meal.
I have an inkling that being generous with my God-time allowance won’t leave me feeling like I’ve being robbed of precious free moments but will instead help me to feel more free, more like the rest of my world’s slowed down a little bit, that life’s not so overwhelming, that God’s the One who’s in control and that I’m not facing these pressures alone. Today these words from Matthew 11:28-30 jumped out at me:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I’m going to try, God. Please help me.